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June 8, 2009

Republican ‘Big-Tenters’: You Had Your Chance


“You support Pat Toomey? The point of political parties is to win elections and build majorities, not to be bastions of ideological purity. Arlen Specter and Susan Collins were right this week – if we don’t broaden the tent we’re going to end up a marginalized regional party out of power for a very long time.”


This note that I recently received is perfectly reflective of the countless conversations I have had lately about the future of the GOP. And I have since realized that, as mistaken as the self-proclaimed “big-tenters” are, no one is more frustrating than those among them who oddly proclaim that the Republican Party has acted anything like an “ideologically pure” conservative party in recent years.


The reality is that the Republican Party has, for at least a decade, been everything contrary to what the “purists” wanted it to be. In fact, it has taken every step the big-tenters claim are necessary to “save” the party from permanent minority status.


When the GOP took control of the House of Representatives in 1995 after four decades of being in the minority, it did so unabashedly on conservative principles. George W. Bush won in 2000 not by revealing what turned out to be his agenda of merely slower government growth, but on promises to rely on conservative principles.


At the height of its 21st Century power, the GOP had comfortable control of both elected branches of the federal government, and it was due in no small part to promises of adopting conservative policies. However, the 2000s also saw Washington change too many of those who had gone there to change it.


What did they change to? Why, they became big-tenters! They took control of party leadership, and fervently supported genuine liberals such as Lincoln Chafee and Arlen Specter against conservatives who challenged them in Republican primaries. They “moderated” their views and became a party of deficits, pork and amnesty. In other words, at the very height of its power, the GOP was precisely what the big-tenters claim it should become now.


They had their chance, and they failed.


When the GOP ceased standing for any principles, no one had any reason to vote for its candidates. In 2006, countless conservatives stayed at home, and many Americans, no longer able to differentiate between the two parties on fiscal issues, voted on tie-breakers such as the Iraq War. In 2008, the GOP nominated precisely the type of “moderate” Republican the big-tenters adore, and he got destroyed by a rookie with zero substance and shady connections who had just come off a vicious primary season.


For the record, Ronald Reagan didn’t put 49 states in his pocket by running on Arlen Specter’s platform.


Big-tenters, you had your chance. What else do you want? “Moderate” majority? You had that. “Moderate” presidential nominee? You had that. How else can we help you? How will the same exact route that you advocate end any better than it did last time?


Please, stop pretending that the GOP is out of power because it has been “too conservative,” or because it has been “the party of Rush Limbaugh,” when it has been everything conservatives stand against. Stop pretending that you want anything different from what you had in 2006 and 2008, when you were in full control of the party and its candidates. Stop pretending that you don’t currently dominate a party leadership that endorsed Arlen Specter weeks before he became a Democrat, and is now endorsing another Republican-lite Charlie Crist in Florida.


Stop asking for the party to “return” to the center – return from where, the left?


You run the party, and you are failing. Stop pretending that it’s because the “purists” stand in your way. The only people standing between you and a majority are yourselves. And when you come to recognize this unfortunate reality, turn over the reins – we know how to work them. We tend get it right when we get the chance.

© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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